Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
There are two different words that are spelled identically as μην (men), one of which is a variant of the more common word μεν:
The noun μην (men I) is the regular word for month (hence our words "month" and "moon"), and also happened to be the name of a lunar deity, Men, who was worshipped in the western part of Anatolia (modern Turkey). This noun is used 18 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. This μην (men) is part of the following derivations:
- Together with the adjective νεος (neos), meaning new: the noun νουμηνια (noumenia), meaning new moon (Colossians 2:16 only).
- Together with the prefix τετρα (tetra), meaning four: the adjective τετραμηνον (tetramenon), meaning of four months (John 4:35 only).
- Together with the cardinal number τρεις (treis), meaning three: the adjective τριμηνον (trimenon), meaning of three-months (Hebrews 11:23 only).
The word μην (men II) is a particle of strong affirmation (Hebrews 6:14 only). It's a variant of the much more common form μεν (men), see next.
The word μεν (men) is a particle of strong affirmation, which occurs 193 times; see full concordance. It probably originated as little more than a Greek "harrumph!" but, as it was originally spelled μαν (man), its journey into its final form may have been lubricated by the name of the deity Men, meaning Moon (see above), if not also by the familiar Semitic expletive Amen! which is of similar meaning. Also note the striking similarity with the verb μενω (meno), meaning to stay, remain or dwell.
Our word μεν (men) may be used to mean truly, indeed (Matthew 17:11, Luke 22:22, Acts 4:16). But may also indicate a certain one (John 19:32, Acts 1:1). Particularly when preceded by the article, it may refer to certain ones; the indeedo's, the truly's, the homies (Acts 1:6, 2:41, 5:1, 8:4, etc.) or even more generally: some (rather similar to the English word "certain" just used, which normally expresses a perfectly solid dependability but in some cases a "certain" vague average or mere suggestion).
Translators should be vigilant to not mistake our word for an adjective, adverb or even substantive. For instance, Romans 14:2 does not speak of someone who "truly believes" that he may eat all things, but instead declares that "indeed" one might believe that one may eat all things. Likewise, Romans 14:5 speaks not of one who judges with certitude, but rather "indeed" about one who judges.
Sometimes our particle serves merely to emphasize a pungent statement, correlating with an English "and wouldn't you know" or "let me tell you" (Mark 16:19, Acts 23:22) or "and sure enough/ I kid you not" (John 11:6). Sometimes — especially when coupled with the conjunction ουν (oun), meaning therefore — our particle μεν (men) mostly governs a conclusive train of thought and can't or shouldn't be translated (Luke 3:18, 23:56, John 16:9, Acts 3:13, 1 Corinthians 6:4, etc.).
μεν . . . δε
Our particle μεν (men) frequently occurs in tandem with the particle δε (de) to form a formulaic statement:
- a statement that goes from condition [A] to conclusion [B] like a supercharged Boolean conditional: "if truly [A], then such and such, if not [B] then such and such" (Matthew 10:13);
- or from proposition [A] to objection [B]: "surely [A] such and such ... but [B] such and such" (Matthew 3:11, 13:32);
Our particle μεν (men) may introduce a sequence that is continued by means of δε de:
- "some [A] a hundredfold, others [B] sixtyfold, others [B] thirtyfold" (Matthew 13:8);
- or some [A] John, others [B] Elijah, others [B] Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14);
- or: "beat one [A], killed another [B], stoned another [B]" (Matthew 21:35);
- or: "of you says someone [A], "I'm of Paul"; someone else [B], "I of Apollos"; someone else [B], "I of Cephas "; someone else [B], "I of Christ.""
In Matthew 13:4-5, the particle δε (de) is preceded by the adjective αλλος (allos), meaning another: "some here ... and some more there." In 1 Corinthians 15:39, Paul combines our particle duo with αλλος (allos) to declare that human flesh is something other than animal flesh, which is something other than that of fish, which is something other than that of birds (in 1 Corinthians 15:40 he does something similar). In John 7:12 the construction "some did such and others did so" is formed with μεν (men) and αλλος (allos), and omits δε (de) altogether.
In Hebrews 10:33, both particles are preceded by τουτος (toutos), meaning this, to form a construction that means "some of this; some of that" or "partly such; partly so." In Philippians 1:15, our particles are both preceded by a plural form of the enclitic indefinite pronoun τις (tis), meaning some or someone, in what appears to be an emphasis in generalness and vagueness: "some somebodies preach Christ out of anger and some other somebodies out of kindness." In the following two verses (1:16-17) our particles reflect back and thus mean "those ones" and "those other ones." In Philippians 3:13 our particles reflect the number and gender of the preceding articles and mean "the one things" and "the other things." In Hebrews 7:2 our particles help to form a "firstly/secondly" sequence, or rather "as first point/ as second point".
Sometimes the transition between these particles is so weak that it's not clear whether the statement contains a deliberate contrast or merely two of potentially more categories: is it "sheep surely to the right, but in contrast goats to the left," or: "sheep one way and goats another [and camels another and donkeys another]" (Matthew 25:33, also see Acts 14:12, 2 Corinthians 2:16)?
In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul uses our two particles to construct a complicated juxtaposition with multiple axes: the Jews, being scientists (or at least in pursuit of practical knowledge rather than lofty metaphysics) demand demonstration of validity (as does the scientific method still today). The Greeks, being speculative philosophers demand wisdom (whatever that might mean). But Paul and co preach that the natural law upon which the universe is based and humanity runs most effectively is publicly displayed and readily available for anyone and without further ado. The full understanding of God's creation dawns upon humanity by means of natural evolution, and not via practicing science or practicing philosophy (although both disciplines obviously come in handy). This sounds to the industrious Jews as some clever trick to be potentially finagled by, but to the Greeks as purely moronic. The transition guarded by our two particles sits between the reactions of the two disciplines: to the Jews indeed a clever trick, but to the Greeks plumb stupidity.
On occasion the options allow for substantial theological debate. In Romans 8:17, does Paul say "heirs surely of God; even joint-heirs of Christ" or "even though heirs of God but joint-heirs of Christ"? Does in 2 Timothy 4:4 Paul write that folks "will surely turn away their ears from the truth and thus turn aside to myths" (that's one and the same thing) or "some will turn away their ears from the truth, while others will turn aside to myths" (that's two different things).
Our particle of affirmation μεν (men) comes with two derivations:
- Together with the aforementioned conjunction ουν (oun), meaning therefore, and the emphatic particle γε (ge): the conjunction μενουνγε (menounge), which neither confirms nor negates but rather draws strong attention to what follows, like an expletive: Now hear this! Mark my words! Harrumph and a half! That's what I'm talking about! It occurs only in Luke 11:28, Romans 9:20 and 10:18.
- Together with the particle τοι (toi), literally meaning "to you": the conjunction μεντοι (mentoi), meaning something like: you bet! [Such and such,] mind you! Some may find it thrilling to realize that when this particle occurs in the narrative (rather than in speech addressed to a character in the story) the "you-"part implicates the reader (that means you!). It occurs 8 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.